The Blog

Creative, Low-Cost Ideas to Motivate Employees

Organizations face challenges every day, but none more important than finding ways to motivate and retain employees. For many companies, especially small firms or those just starting up, cash flow is tight and lavish incentives like bonuses, trips, parties and outings are not an option. So, what are some less expensive ways to show appreciation for employees’ efforts, help bring more productivity into the workday, and introduce a little fun into the office? 

Entice with Alternative Rewards – Extravagant incentives are out of reach for most organizations, but rewards can still be effective without being pricey. Instead of not including incentive programs in your employee benefits, scale them down or find alternative, meaningful prizes. Employees participating in a company-wide or inter-department contest could reap the rewards of a gift card to a favorite restaurant, local store or coffee shop. Some organizations may also be able to give the gift of time, by granting employees an afternoon off or a bonus vacation day. These small rewards can help boost employees’ spirits and create some friendly competition in the workplace. 

Delve into Development – Some organizations may not have large budgets for expensive employee training and development initiatives, but they shouldn’t let learning lapse. Continuing education and development is something that keeps people excited about their jobs. Instead of sending teams away to off-site seminars, sponsor a series of internal “learning lunches” or lectures. Invite the CEO, clients or business partners to speak on timely topics, or consider inter-departmental trainings (i.e. have a member of the IT department train sales staff in a new software). Get creative about how your employees can help each other – and continue to learn. 

Keep it Casual for Fridays – It may seem inconsequential, but instituting a casual dress code on Fridays can lift the mood in the office. Being able to slip on casual clothing instead of a tie or tights can create a welcome start to the day. Employers can also adopt “team spirit” days, where employees can don their favorite sports teams’ colors and jerseys to commemorate important game days such as the start of baseball season. 

Let Them eat Treats – Food can be a great reward. Leaders may want to consider providing a meal or snack for a job well-done. Employees may look forward to coming in on a Monday morning if they know fresh bagels and coffee await them. Lunch or dinner brought in for a team working long hours on a project is also a nice gesture. Some organizations even have the “ice cream man” in to deliver sundae cones and popsicles to people as a special treat. 

Go on Giving – Corporate philanthropy programs are a valuable way to increase morale among employees. Instead of writing a check, many organizations are making a greater impact by allowing employees to volunteer for their favorite charities. Participating in employer-sponsored programs allows employees the opportunity to donate their time to a worthy cause, make a connection to their community and feel good about their organization. Events, such as a walk for charity or serving a meal at a homeless shelter, can take place during the work day or after-hours so family members can join in the activities. 

Consider Shrinking – Not Scrapping – Soirees — For organizations not wanting to fund glitzy holiday parties, expensive golf tournaments or weekend team-building retreats, it is possible to have a similar impact with a smaller-scale event. Employees might be happy to attend a family picnic at a local park, or have a team-building exercise on-site. Think about what you’re trying to accomplish with the event and devise a plan to achieve the same results without the exorbitant costs. 

Ask for Input – It is always a good idea to ask employees for their thoughts. Survey people to find out what options appeal to them most. Where do they want the resources to go? What would they like to see? Institute the most popular choices. 

Of course, leaders who institute incentive programs must do so for the right reasons – not just to get employees to work harder, but to express gratitude for their efforts and to show true value and support. As such, leaders should make sure that the initiatives that are put in place to help motivate also stay true to the organization’s core values and culture. While these gestures may seem small, they convey one of the most powerful sentiments there is: thank you.  

Photo Credit: NFIB